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Thoughts on the Targeted Killings Report

By Ben Heath

To con­tin­ue the dis­cus­sion of Pro­fes­sor Philip Alston’s report on tar­get­ed killings, I can imag­ine no bet­ter dis­cus­sion on the self-defense ratio­nale for drone strikes than that pre­sent­ed by Marko Milanovic at the EJIL blog.  (At Opinio Juris, Ken­neth Ander­son promis­es a response, which will most cer­tain­ly pro­vide for inter­est­ing debate.)

I also ful­ly agree with Milanovic’s cri­tique of Alston’s asser­tion that, out­side of armed con­flict, “the use of drones for tar­get­ed killing is almost nev­er like­ly to be legal.”  This state­ment is unnces­sar­i­ly con­clu­so­ry: there should be some lim­it­ed room for these strikes in the law enforce­ment par­a­digm of human rights, pro­vid­ed that the tar­get pos­es a sig­nif­i­cant dan­ger, that no oppor­tu­ni­ty for cap­ture exists, etc.  One imag­ines that this might be the case in coun­tries where the gov­ern­ment holds only loose con­trol over wide swaths of ter­ri­to­ry.  But, to be sure, drone strikes on the New Jer­sey Turn­pike are almost cer­tain­ly illegal.

I would not pre­sume to step fur­ther into such well-cov­ered ground.  Instead, I will use this space to high­light some oth­er aspects of the report, while rec­og­niz­ing that these are def­i­nite­ly side­notes to the major issues.

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